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Overcoming Denial: A Guide to Facing the Truth

Overcoming Denial: A Guide to Facing the Truth

Denial is a powerful thing. It can make us believe whatever we choose to believe, even though the facts stating otherwise may be right in our faces. Denial is an extremely common defense mechanism that our brain produces to help us cope with and rationalize stressful, traumatic, or unpleasant events and experiences in our lives.

Although everyone experiences the process of denial multiple times throughout their lives, it is even more common among those struggling with substance use disorder. Think back on times when you were in denial about your use, such as telling yourself that “just a little bit is okay” or “at least I’m doing better than that person.” Often, hiding behind denial was a way to falsely convince yourself and others that things were going well and there were no issues.

Denial can be displayed in multiple ways. Look at some of the most common denial methods and ask yourself if you remember utilizing them when you were in active use:

  • Rationalizing: The “just a little bit is okay” mentality. When rationalizing, you tell yourself that you deserve a treat for completing particularly hard or stressful tasks. You believe that using is a justified and deserved reward to yourself.
  • Minimizing: The “it’s no big deal” mindset. Making your struggle seem less difficult or intimidating and attempting to brush off fears and concerns. You may realize just how serious your problem is, but simultaneously deny its importance to yourself and others. “I’m only hurting myself.”
  • Projecting: The “it’s not my fault” mentality. You project your issues onto other people, blaming them and focusing on what they’re doing wrong instead of what you’re doing right. An example could be placing blame on family or friends for causing you to use.

Now that you have seen and identified with common denial methods, you don’t have to feel bad or guilty. As stated previously, everyone is in denial at multiple points in their lives – and there are many ways to overcome denial, be honest with yourself, and process your emotions and reactions in a healthier way.

  • Journaling: Writing down all your thoughts can provide a useful tool for soul-searching and emotional confrontation within yourself. It gives you a chance to let everything out, even your most private thoughts, so that you can be more honest with yourself, and the process of healing can begin.
  • Expressing yourself: Don’t keep everything bottled up – speak your mind to others, tell your truth, and be willing to have difficult conversations as a result. Keeping all your feelings hidden can lead to resentment, guilt, or anger, and these negative emotions usually result in denial.
  • Attending meetings: By regularly going to AA or NA meetings and keeping in touch with a sponsor, you will be surrounded by a support group of people who are dealing with the same problems as you. You can be completely truthful with them, and they will be able to hold you accountable.

Denial can be tricky and scary but overcoming it can be as simple as surrounding yourself with trustworthy, supportive people and opening up. Living an honest life and dealing with your emotions head-on is a path to successful, sustained recovery.


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About Fellowship Hall

For 50 years, Fellowship Hall has been saving lives. We are a 99-bed, private, not-for-profit alcohol and drug treatment center located on 120 tranquil acres in Greensboro, N.C. We provide treatment and evidence-based programs built upon the Twelve-Step model of recovery. We have been accredited by The Joint Commission since 1974 as a specialty hospital and are a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. We are committed to providing exceptional, compassionate care to every individual we serve.